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Canine's death source of contention

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

SNELLVILLE — Raymond Wilkins calls animal cruelty charges against him unjust after, he claims, he was forced to fatally shoot his Rottweiler, a 2-year-old, 120-pound pet named “Granite.”

Gwinnett police believe Wilkins was out of line in shooting the dog several times Sunday on his Chelsey Way Court property, after the animal bit Wilkins’ 11-year-old nephew on the forearm. Witnesses told police the gunshots sounded more calculated than reactionary.

Police charged Wilkins, 35, with felony animal cruelty and discharging a firearm within 50 yards of a public street. Wilkins, a water treatment equipment specialist, was released from Gwinnett County Jail on Monday and says he plans to hire an attorney.

“I definitely don’t think (the charges are) just. I definitely plan to fight the charges,” Wilkins said. “I’m an animal lover, especially a ‘Rotty’ lover.”

Wilkins said he owned two Rottweilers, and the male he called “Granite” had been acting aggressive for a couple of weeks — enough so that Wilkins purchased a 9 mm handgun to protect himself and his 14-year-old son, he said.

During a surprise birthday party for Wilkins’ father on Sunday, he said the two dogs that usually stayed indoors were locked in a backyard kennel, but somehow broke out. Wilkins’ son and nephew were outside when the attack occurred about 1 a.m., police said.

“When I found my nephew down the street — in dismay, blood everywhere — I was really shocked, overwhelmed,” Wilkins said. “I did grab my handgun because I didn’t know what state my dog was in.”

Wilkins said he found the dog in the backyard kennel. When he reached to lock the kennel door, the dog lunged at him aggressively, he said.

“That’s when I stepped back and I fired,” he said. “I really don’t know how many times I fired because I was afraid of being bit.”

Wilkins locked the kennel, retrieved his nephew and drove him to Eastside Medical Center, he said.

Multiple 911 callers reported gunshots and “a sound resembling either an injured animal or a screaming woman” in the Havencrest subdivision, according to a Gwinnett police report. Responding Officer T.P. Corradino found the dog in a pool of blood and called in Animal Control.

“Its back leg appeared to have been shattered,” Corradino wrote in a report.

Animal Control personnel transported the dog to an animal hospital in Grayson, where two bullets were found in its body. The dog was later euthanized and taken to the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for a necropsy.

Police interviewed Wilkins at the hospital that morning but did not charge him. Wilkins said the boy suffered several bites marks and was bleeding profusely.

Charges came the following night, when the officer interviewed two nearby residents who claimed they heard a “noticeable pause” between several gunshots. Police returned to Wilkins’ home and arrested him without incident. A family member came from Duluth to retrieve his son, the report states.

Police did not confiscate the weapon, which Wilkins said is permitted. He called the situation “sad” on all fronts.

“It was a very unfortunate incident,” Wilkins said. “The dog I loved and cared for ... I had to put down.”